COUGAR (Puma concolor)
 
 
 

Where can I find cougars in the wild?

The cougar thrives in mountains, coniferous forests, lowland tropical forests, swamps, grassland, dry brush country, or any other area with adequate cover and prey. The cougar has the greatest natural distribution of any mammal in the Western Hemisphere except for man. They can be found across Western North America from British Columbia and south Alberta through western Wyoming to California, as well as Texas, Louisiana, south Alabama, Tennessee, and peninsular Florida.

 

What do cougars eat?

Cougars primarily feed on large mammals, preferring deer, but they will also eat coyotes, porcupines, beaver, mice marmots, hares, raccoons, birds and even grasshoppers. They kill by stalking to within 30 feet of their prey before pouncing from its hiding place. It leaps onto its victim’s back and bites into the neck and holds with its sharp claws.

 

Do cougars live in groups?

Cougars are solitary cats and will avoid other individuals except for mating. They communicate by the use of visual and olfactory signals, and the males regularly make scrapes in the soil or snow. Their vocalizations include growls, hisses, and bird-like whistles. They purr like the domestic cats, and during estrus, the females give off loud, hair-raising screams.

There is no fixed mating season, but the majority of births occur between late winter and early spring. Females tend to reproduce every other year, and give birth to litters of 1 – 6 (usually 2-3) kittens after a gestation of 90-96 days. Mothers give birth to their young in dens that are lined with moss or vegetation, usually in rock shelters, crevices, piles of rocks, thickets, caves, or some other protected place. Kittens weigh approximately 7-16 ounces at birth, and have spotted coats until they are around 6 months old. They will continue to nurse for 3 or more months, but will begin to take meat at 6 weeks. The kittens will remain with their mothers until they are 1-2 years old, and after separating, siblings will remain together for another 2-3 months. Females reach sexual maturity around 2.5 and males around 3 years. They will not begin to reproduce until they have established themselves a permanent home area. Cougars may remain reproductive until 12 years of age for females, and 20 years for males. 

 

Are cougars endangered?

Cougars are listed as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List, with a declining population. Cougars are listed as game species and open for hunting with permits in the following states: Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, South Dakota, and North Dakota. Each state sets their own rules and limits on permits given to hunt cougars, so the number of cougars being killed each year varies by state. Texas is the only state which considers cougars varmint and does not require a permit to hunt cougars. As such, there is no cap on the number of cougars which are hunted in the state. Additionally, hunters don’t have to report their kills so there is no accurate number on how many cougars are killed each year in Texas. In contrast, California classifies cougars as specially protected mammals and cannot be hunted for sport. There is a small subpopulation of cougars in Florida which are listed as an endangered species and as such cannot be hunted for sport. Across the United States, cougars are allowed to be killed if they threaten livestock, pets, or people. 

 For more information on the conservation status of cougars and their principal threats, visit the IUCN Red List: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/18868/97216466